Nairobi mall gunmen holding hostages

2013-09-21 14:34
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Kenya mall attack

Several people have died after gunmen opened fire and lobbed grenades in an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. See the pictures here.

Nairobi - Gunmen who attacked a Nairobi shopping mall on Saturday have taken at least seven hostages, police and security guards told an AFP reporter at the scene.

"They have seven hostages, confirmed," an officer said as police were engaged in an operation to clear the mall shop-by-shop and evacuate terrified people caught up in the incident.

The gunmen stormed the upmarket mall and sprayed gunfire on shoppers and staff, killing at least six, AFP reporters and witnesses said.

Several attackers and trapped civilians were believed to still be inside the large four-storey shopping centre more than two hours after the attack began, and heavy fire was heard as police units moved in.

Police and ambulances surrounded the Westgate mall, which is popular with wealthy Kenyans and expatriates and would have been packed with families on a sunny weekend day.

Panic

Terrified people could be seen running away from the compound clutching children while others crawled along walls to avoid stray bullets.

Kenneth Kerich, who was shopping when the attack happened, described scenes of panic.

"I suddenly heard gunshots and saw everyone running around so we [lay] down. I saw two people who were lying down and bleeding, I think they were hit by bullets," he said.

"Initially we thought it is police fighting thugs. But we could not leave until when officers walked in, shot in the air and told us to get out."

The motive of the attack was not immediately clear, but Kenyan media said the attackers, who witnesses said were black-clad and masked, may have been either armed robbers or "terrorists".

An AFP television journalist saw three bodies laid out in front of the mall, their heads covered, and two more bodies inside.

An eyewitness who survived the assault by gunmen said he saw the body of a child being wheeled out of the mall.

'At least 50 shot'

"The gunmen tried to fire at my head but missed. At least 50 people were shot. There are definitely many casualties," a mall employee, Sudjar Singh, told AFP.

"I saw a young boy carried out on a shopping cart, it looked like he was about 5 or 6. It looked like he was gone, he was not moving or making any noise."

Vehicles riddled with bullet holes were left abandoned in front of the mall as police instructed residents of the Westlands neighbourhood to stay away from the scene.

"There's an incident at Westgate and we're urging the public to keep off the area," Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said.

"Our officers are on the ground carrying out an evacuation of those inside as they search for the attackers who are said to be inside," he said.

"We have managed to evacuate some people to safety. We urge Kenyans to avoid the area as we pursue the thugs," Kenya's Interior Ministry said on Twitter.

Local television reports, quoting witnesses trapped inside the mall, said a number of people had been taken hostage while others were hiding inside shops.

The Westgate mall, which opened in 2007, has restaurants, cafes, banks, a large supermarket and a cinema which attract thousands of people every day and have made it a Nairobi landmark.

It is popular with the large expatriate community living in the residential neighbourhoods around it, including with foreign staff from the United Nations, which has its third largest global centre nearby.

Security agencies have regularly included the Westgate shopping centre on lists of sites they feared could be targeted by Al Qaeda-linked groups.

The Somali insurgents from the Shebab group, which claims allegiance to al-Qaeda, have repeatedly threatened to strike at the heart of Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi's military involvement alongside the government they are trying to overthrow.

Read more on:    kenya  |  kenya mall attack  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
9 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.